Entries Posted in "Culture"

Page 14 of 24

Just What Should You be Reading?
July 20, 2004

The subject of books abounds! Do you have a homogenized bookshelf? My mind got thinking again this weekend when I caught some more dialogue on reading necessities. In a recent article, care of college student (and kindred spirit) Rachel Durado at the Banana Republican, writer Kelly Jane Torrance compares the readings lists of British and American celebrities,

"How do American celebrities compare? Oprah magazine gives us some of their picks. All too often, they lack the idiosyncratic touch and therefore resemble course requirements for Diversity 101. Hillary Clinton's list includes The Joy Luck Club, The Poisonwood Bible, The Color Purple, The Clan of the Cave Bear, Wild Swans, and West With the Night by pioneer female aviator Beryl Markham. What a virtuous reader our former First Lady is!

The selection made by America's other First Lady, Katie Couric, is just as solemn, but strangely dated: Black Like Me, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Huckleberry Finn, The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Of Mice and Men, A Patch of Blue. It turns out Couric gave Oprah the names of her childhood favorites. What an earnest young woman she must have been!

On the other hand, Nigella Lawson, the English celebrity chef, is not ashamed to admit her love of the now savagely derided children's author Enid Blyton. Lawson says of Blyton's The Naughtiest Girl in the School, 'This book taught me how deeply enjoyable reading is, and that's what counts.' Reading--it's not just a grim duty!"

Oprah's picks resemble a booklist from a Diversity 101 course? I couldn't agree more. Just this past weekend, the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative organization recently received a letter written on behalf of a young black man. The subject? Recommended reading by black authors.


I mentor a young black man who is going to go to college next year. I was wondering if you had a list of literature or suggestions for some reading material. He is interested in economics and business. I was hoping for some ethics, philosophy, and history titles as well. I would prefer if the authors were black. He attends a majority white private Catholic school where he is one of the brightest students; I want him to have some black intellectual experience too.

Thank you for your time.
In a response, fellow Conservative Brotherhood member Michael Cobb Bowen has given his own recommendations in true "to be continued" format. Interestingly enough, he's divided the authors into the categories of "Philosophicals" and of course my ultimate favorite, "Existentialists". Among the authors, he mentioned the works of Cornel West, Malcolm X, and Skip Gates. I used to be in love with Cornel West, almost to the point of obsession. I read all of his books including his lengthy "reader". In retrospect, I can't figure out if it was his ideas I was in love with or just the fact that I was so thirsty to read something half-way intelligent by a black author that I was hanging on every word he wrote.

I'm fairly certain that the question at hand in this letter is not one I could answer very quickly. Although I've read the works of a significant among of black authors, narrowing down the must-reads takes a bit of examination. Much of my education afforded me a somewhat lop-sided presentation of intellectual thought. The writer of the letter remarked that the boy about which she was writing was a student of a private, predominately, white Catholic school. It is obvious she felt he was lacking something in his own education or else she wouldn't have written.

When I was in school, a good portion of the books we read and analyzed were written by the same types of people. Those people were usually dead, white, or male. While some were classics, others were just all around good pieces of writing. If someone asked me to list off recommended reading based on white authors alone, I could produce a big fat list. It would be rather ignorant of me to think that the reason for this is some sort of lack in ability amongst authors of color. Nevertheless, teachers never failed to throw in that one (and sometimes two) token book(s) of the semester written by an author of color. This was a strategy that proved itself to be a set-up. The lopsided percentage of "old, white, male" authors compared to most others was dreadfully apparent. This being the case, that one "colorful" book we read each semester had to be pretty gosh darn good or else we'd all start forming our negative opinions about authors of color and their inability to write coherent thoughts. At the time I read it, Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior pretty much decimated my desire to read future works of Asian-American authors.

The question of what a person should (or should have) read is really quite complex. I don't believe it is the same answer for every person. As a black, woman, intellectual living in America, it would behoove me to have certain pieces of writing under my belt. This knowledge doesn't necessarily serve as bragging rights or give me some exclusive edge in conversation at the dinner table. No. This knowledge serves a purpose beyond shallow table references. It gives me the foundation and knowledge to understand the history of thought as it relates to my own race of people. If I intend to be at all relevant in my daily affairs as it relates to my own cultural heritage (both claimed and unclaimed), there are certain things I can't afford not to know. The same is true of anyone based on their sphere of influence and activity on the Earth. While no actor should go without studying Shakespeare, the average person could care less about Macbeth.

I'm odd in that I don't really have any favorite books. Instead, I have a list of books that drastically impacted my life and my way of thinking. Life-changing books are not always those I agree with, as they are often either insightful or inciteful. At times, I can grasp more insight from Hitler's Mein Kampf or Sanger's Motherhood in Bondage than I can reading the exalted works of many of our glorified thinkers. I am an avid used-bookstore shopper. This could be the nerd in me fighting to get out, but I think it's more the fact that I'm more likely to stumble across a rare jewel in small-time bookstores than I am less-likely to find in the commercialized Barnes & Noble. Although, I'll admit Barnes & Noble gets a fair amount of my money.

That letter got me thinking. How many of us have ever even bothered to ask the question, "what should I be reading"? It's something that beckons more discussion and I fear that all too often, we let the New York Times or Oprah make the decision on our behalf.

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Authors Find a Niche With Singles
July 20, 2004

The New York Times published an interesting article yesterday on the booming self-help book business for singles. The focus of the article was Christian singles. I think the preferable term here is "unmarried". God never called us single. The article focuses mostly on author and motivational speaker (I hate that term) Michelle MicKinney Hammond, whose 20 some odd books have been primarily marketed to Christian woman. I've read bits and pieces of her work and I was never really impressed. And trust me when I say I've read just about everything there is out there in this area. It's a topic that is near to my heart as I watch the women of my generation legally prostitute themselves.

I think we've got a lot of reform to do both in the body of Christ and in the world in how men and women relate to eachother and how we view singleness or "unmarriedness". I believe two major things have hindered women.

1)Too much independence
2)Too much dependence on a human relationship for wholeness
Perhaps I'm using this as a placeholder for later discussion. There's an interesting dynamic that's been going on in our country for quite some time; we practice divorce.

More on that later...

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Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience
July 16, 2004

Question of the Day:

At what point does child nudity cease being "innocent"?

"Whose Line is it Anyway" Points if you know what book of poetry that title is from.

Update:  No really, I'm seriously asking the question.  This is not about child porn (odd people took it that way).  I used the picture to left as an example.  Some years ago everybody had that "innocent" naked baby picture lying around.  Where do we draw the line?  We got asked this question in a seminar once.  Picture yourself at the beach, there are parents who let their babies and toddlers run free like the wind.  At want point is it time to cover up?

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July 15, 2004

The tizzy in the comments section of "Political Polarization" post got me thinking about this "groupthink" thing. I'm lifting something off of fellow Conservative Brotherhood member Cobb's site:

Groupthink Requirements

Ideological Coherence, Small Groups, Established Institutional Identity, Loyalty
Discussion that takes place in the context of assumed consensus.

Do you agree with this definition? Under what, if any circumstances is groupthink okay? Based on that definition, I can think of one, although I won't say right now.

In the corporate environment people just make up words and concepts. One thing we use around my workplace is "braintrust". That is, my trust that you're smart and I'll go along with whatever decision you make, without even knowing what the decision is. This is of course much different than "groupthink". It seems to me groupthink doesn't always imply that there's "braintrust".

Alright, enough conceptual idioms. My brain's gonna go 'splody.

Posted in Culture, Politics | Permanent Link | Comments { 4 }
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Tasteful Politics
July 15, 2004

There are very few things that send me into convulsions. Among them, being called "feisty", use of the word "tolerance", little puppies crossing a busy street, and people who say dumb and degrading things about prominent political leaders in public. Ill-politics are like finger nails on a chalkboard for me. It gives me the chills. And I'm not talking about the good kind either. There's nothing like sitting back, relaxing to get your hair cut and being forced to listen to your stylist rant on about how much she hates Bush. Am I the only one that thinks this is completely unprofessional?

So you can imagine my disdain when I heard of Whoopi Goldberg's recent comments about President Bush and Dick Cheney at a recent Kerry fundraiser. I've yet to locate her actual words, but even then, I wouldn't post them because knowing Whoopi, they were inapproriate. The New York Post reported,

"Waving a bottle of wine, she [Goldberg] fired off a stream of vulgar sexual wordplays on Bush's name in a riff about female genitalia."
Classy Whoopi. Very classy. Can't say I'd expect more since Goldberg is known for her uncouth behavior. It seems the heads at Slim-fast did since they made the brilliant decision to hire this loose-cannon as their national spokesperson. That's mistake number one. They did however, avoid mistake number two. When Republican and Conservative Slim Fast drinkers (there's some Google boolean) started complaining to the company, Whoopi got dropped like a bad habit. So much for contracts. Slim Fast's Kathi Eckler remarks,
"Slim-Fast selected Whoopi Goldberg as its spokesperson because of her commitment to losing weight, which we applaud.

"We are disappointed by the manner in which Ms. Goldberg chose to express herself and sincerely regret that her recent remarks offended you. Advertisements featuring Ms. Goldberg will no longer be on air."

There are two subjects that can incite riots among the masses: Religion and Politics. Smart people know how to play the game, but the fools, well, they mouth off dumb things in the workplace and on CNN. Am I the only one that thinks a measure of tact should be used when discussing certain matters in a public forum?

As expected, Republicans were not pleased about the set-up of Kerry's fundraiser, which lined up celebrities with the intent and sole purpose of "skewering" the President. So what's new? I must say, this is my LEAST favorite aspect about politics during the presidential election. Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of resorting to tactics of name-calling and mud-slinging. Democrats have the upperhand in that they're fighting an incumbent and many people love to hate Bush. It seems this is the game you have to play to be heard these days. All parties are guilty. Shame.

I personally think it's downright tacky. Why can't anything be about the issues anymore? That must be the "sheltered youth" in me speaking. I admit, I'm guilty on many occasions of slinging mud myself, but even with Clinton, I tried to remain civil. On another note, does anyone find it ironic that Whoopi's tagline with Slim Fast was "I'm a Big Loser"?

Self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Female Brains
July 14, 2004

I could write about the recent debates around the Federal Marriage Act (I probably will later but not right now), I could write about how Weezie from the Jeffersons moved on up, or how sick I am of hearing about Kobe Bryant, or "Queasy" Mfume's dumb and typically calculated remarks on behalf of the NAACP. I could discuss the theory of relativity, the war on Iraq, or the current lack of leadership in the Philippines. I could finally finish and proofread my dissertation on not-being a Republican or write about the other fifty some odd topics I have lined up for this site, but today I won't. Right now I am going to talk about shopping and my addiction to buying shoes, the anger I feel when my lipstick melts in the sun, my love for ridiculously priced designer jeans, and the strange "peace" and solace I feel when I wander through the mall. Or how about the fact that every now and then, when I don't feel like thinking, processing, or analyzing, I indulge myself on Sunday evenings by watching my nemesis, MTV's Punk'd in re-run, laughing very hard and eating an entire large Canadian-bacon pizza by my lonesome, all while reading pointless magazines none of which contain the words "U.S., Today, World, News, or Week" with articles who peak in profundity when they outline the best forms of leg hair removal. Here's a tip: waxing hurts. Even in the midst of all this, I still manage to feel good about myself, and I still consider myself a half-way decent and intelligent human being. Every now and then, I reserve the right to vent.

Today I am going to talk about a subject I've toyed with in my head for quite some time. That is, being female and being intelligent. Before the "tomboy's" get all bent, let me just say that my intent here is not to stereotype anyone. I realize that the spectrum of womanhood is deep and wide so forgive me in advance if I pigeon-hole anyone. After all, you know how I feel about those labeled boxes.

This is a subject rather dear to my heart since I am most definitely female, and dare I venture to say I am somewhat intelligent (most of the time). So I have this problem, although I'm not sure what it is but maybe you can help. My dilemma is best outlined in a brief story I'd like to share:

The summer of my junior year, my best friend Alyssa and I took a trip to Washington, D.C. The trip was multi-faceted. I visited some relatives in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and the both of us were on a mission to check out Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, UPenn and Temple University. It was an action- packed two week trip, most of which was spent in our nation's lovely capitol.

After a few adventures, the worst of which included getting stuck on the Beltway (a heinous work of engineering if you ask me), and included crying, sweating, and cautiously used Christian-profanity, we'd managed to successfully pick apart every university within a 120 mile radius. Alyssa decided if accepted, she'd attend Georgetown. I wasn't as impressed and remained pretty neutral on which school I'd choose.

After tasking intensely, the remainder of our trip left lots of time for sight-seeing and profound historical learning. We'd both been to Washington a number of times so the Capitol Building, the White House, Washington monument and the Holocaust Museum didn't interest us much. I wanted to go shopping and eat ice cream. So I'm certain you can understand my excitement when my aunt with whom we were staying mentioned we should check out the Mall. Needless to say, wrong mall.

The best time of the entire trip was not the time we spent immersed in the history of Washington, the buzz of politics at the Capitol, or the guided tours of the top universities. No, it was the day Alyssa and I, along with my cousin, who's also fluent in French, and some well-saved spending money and allowances, rode the train into Georgetown and hit up every shoe store East of the Mississippi. Nevermind that we managed to only speak in French the entire time, when we returned at the end of the day with shopping bags in hand, I had this feeling as though we'd done a great disservice to womankind. We chose recreational bliss over scholarly aptitude and had the shoeboxes to show for it.

So what is it about our culture that makes a girl feel she has to act a certain way to be deemed intelligent? I consider myself a moderate girly girl who doesn't mind getting dirty or breaking a nail. There are times when I absolutely need my "non-academic" interests to involve the least amount of thinking possible. Does this make me normal, does this make me dense, does this make me a ditz? I could care less what the answer is, but somehow society's decided to define that for me. I read the work of many great female journalists and authors and increasingly disturbing are the comments from critics who feel the need to point out their shock of someone with such great aptitude. You mean a woman right? You mean you're shocked that they're women and intelligent right? I recently poured through the comments on a blog of a particularly insightful female writer. Every now and then I'd see someone write "wow, you've got beauty and brains! How rare!" Is it really rare, or is that the concept our culture's projected?

I struggle back and forth with this as many women do. I've always hesitated to post my picture in conjunction with my writing. Not because I think I'm pretty or anything, but because writing can be a lot more fun when people don't know who's behind the words. First impressions are a funny thing and I'm not sure what my picture gives off, but I would have rather not risked it. Then I remembered two things:

  1. When I read, I like to put a face with words.
  2. I don't care what other people think.
So after all that rambling, I'm hoping you see my dilemma. I reserve the right to be mindless every now and then and unfortunately, these days that gets attributed to my sex.

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Lessons From the Huxtables
July 13, 2004

Being that the Cosby show is the I-ching and sum of all wisdom, I had to mention this. In light of the hip-hop discourse at hand, I watched an episode of the Cosby Show in re-run last night. It was the one where Theo and Cockroach rewrite Shakespeare's Julius Caesar via rap to help them learn it. Interesting...

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Epiphany! Movies Are Sleazy
July 13, 2004

I'm convinced, people have nothing better to do with their time. A recent study (NYT registration req) from the Harvard (I wonder where the endowment goes) School of Health, has found that the last decade in film gave birth to what they call a "ratings creep". It seems movie ratings are much more lenient than they were ten years ago. You mean to tell me that we had to do an in-depth study at a major university to find out that film content is more violent and sexually explicit? Sometimes I think I'm in the wrong profession. Some of these people are being paid way too much. In the New York Times article on the study, Rich Taylor, a spokesman for the Motion Picture Association suggests that the standards for judging acceptable depictions of sex and violence in American society are constantly changing. I give you my case for the fight against moral relativism and situation ethics in this country.

Co-author of the study and associate professor of get this, risk analysis and decision science (you're kidding me right...that's a real professorship?) Kimberly Thompson notes,

"When you look at the average, today's PG-13 movies are approaching what the R movies looked like in 1992 [and] today's PG is approaching what PG-13 looked like a decade ago."
That's not even counting the tripe and sexual innuendos Disney throws in most of their rated G movies. I've always said the ratings system is a joke and an excuse for people who want a shortcut to doing their jobs as parents. This is the danger in allowing the Motion Picture Association to dictate to us what is and isn't appropriate. It's ALL relative.

Ultimately, the result of the study appears to have left them with more questions than anything. Questions such as "What's the difference between sensuality and sexuality?" or "violence and action violence". Their end hypothesis? There's no fool-proof way to rate films. Well, duh.

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Hi, I'm Charles Dickens, and I'm Overrated
July 13, 2004

For the record, I'm not a booksnob, I'm a bookslut. I read 'em and leave 'em. Books are an interesting topic of discussion. You'd have to understand my kooky personality to see how much humor I find in ripping on our "great works of literature" to shreds. My previous list was based on books I'd actually read or attempted to read. That leaves a lot out. Please understand that my tongue and cheek disdain for Dickens and Homer is tinted with a bit of respect and honor. After all, they are "great" authors. So all you Dickens lovers don't have to get your panties (or boxers) in a wad. I'll give them their due for long-windedness. There was a moment when I enjoyed Great Expectations. The end. I imagine if I would ever meet Dickens the conversation might go as such:

Continue reading "Hi, I'm Charles Dickens, and I'm Overrated">>>

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Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
July 12, 2004

So while we're on the subject of books (a subject I just can't seem to shake lately), I want to recall a recent topic of spicy debate. In all that I do and discuss these days, my favorite hat to wear is the young "millennial" one. That is, by most adults' standards, the rebellious, misunderstood generation cap. This is also where I usually contend with my fellow conservative associations.

A few weeks back, it came to light that a summer school program in Worcester, MA made "gangsta rap" a part of their curriculum when they placed one of Tupac's collections of poetry, The Rose That Grew from Concrete on their summer reading list. Many people have already tackled the subject of Tupac's poetry being used in the public system. Last month, author and columnist Michelle Malkin delivered a scathing report in her article 2 Lazy 2 Teach. The backlash was interesting, yet typical. Conservatives got on their moral high horses and spouted their "infinite wisdom" on how we should be teaching, while the usual Tupac lovers emerged from their dens of mourning to defend his honor. Neither reaction has produced any fruit in my opinion. I have yet to see useful dialogue in this whole topic of the hip-hop generation. I love Michelle Malkin as much as the next, but she and I dissent on a couple of things, and neither of them is Tupac. Due to the hat I wear, I need to come at this from another direction.

Continue reading "Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?">>>

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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
Oh parent Where Art Thou?
Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
Gonorrhea and the City

I Have a Talk Show